Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ten Ton Republic

After reading up a bit on a pair of Ten Ton Hammer interviews with the developers of SW: The Old Republic, I've come to a determination about this game...

It will be *worse* than SWG NGE. These developers have a lot of good ideas, but they are trying desperately to clone KOTOR and make it multiplayer, while jamming the game full of all the storylines and plot they couldn't jam into KOTOR 1 and 2. Don't get me wrong, they have a right to include content and story, in fact I encourage it, it's just that they seem to be very wistful of their earlier successes and aren't willing to let it go.

As to my earlier ideas of classes, I have revamped them. I now believe they are going to do a Star Wars d20 system similar to KOTOR. In that system, you can start as any character class and gain other classes if you want. So instead of being a Soldier and only a soldier, you can be a soldier and later a jedi, or (this is different than KOTOR) maybe become a soldier/scout mix. This is more of a Neverwinter Nights and Dungeons and Dragons idea, and if NWN taught us anything, multiplayer sucks when you can't take back bad choices in character levels.

Now, it's one thing to play as a warrior or something in WOW and realize you don't like the class and switch to another class. Usually this happens well before the character has had a huge time investment. The player can re-roll and be done with it. If there's a max level cap to The Old Republic, and you take a character level in a class that ends up being a horrible choice, your character is forever gimped. The only reason I see this as useful is to make jedi hybrids that do not start off as jedi (a la KOTOR). Even then, using a level-based system is infuriating to a SWG vet.

Consequently, I doubt we will see a return of the KOTOR D20 system with it's 20 max level. Most MMORPG's have at least fifty levels, with 60-80 being "normal." This game begs for some sort of skill system. Maybe a combination of SWG's old system and something like project entropia or Final Fantasy XI's weapon skill system. In that way, even if you unlearn professions and skills you retain the usefulness of those weapons.

For example, have character classes that provide things like tactics and specials (maybe even the ability to use specific weapons and armor without penalties). Then have a seperate system of skills tied to different kinds of weapons and armor, as well as those fun things like force powers, and naturally crafting skills. As you use weapons, armor, force powers, crafting skills, etc, your skill level increases (you can even cap skill level according to character level if you want but that seems pointless to me). This lets you use those items with some additional ease (faster reload/firing times, less energy/force required to use it, better crafting results, etc). Then, even if you switch professions, you don't feel like you've lost a bunch of skills. This helps retain continuity and a feeling of the character being real.

Just because I've become an accountant instead of being a plumber doesn't mean I suddenly forget how to use a wrench. Similarly, just because I've stopped my career as a soldier to undergo jedi training, doesn't mean I forgot how to use a blaster.

I'm ranting now, but I feel a shudder in the force the more I hear about SW:TOG.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Star Wars: The Old Republic Classes

According to Bioware's website for the game, Star Wars: The Old Republic will have two distinct "jedi" flavors; Jedi and Sith. In addition there will be "A variety of other classic star wars roles" whatever that means. Until more information is released, any discussion about classes is pure speculation. Of course that doesn't make for a very interesting blog post, now does it? So speculate we shall...

While nothing should be assumed about Bioware's latest project, lest hopes rise to be crushed under the weight of a game that already has high expectations after Sony's mishandling of SWG, we can make some educated guesses. The problem with guessing is that with virtually no information out about the game, it is very hard to find jumping-off places. At any rate, away we go...

Scenario 1: Single Jedi classes for each empire with a "variety of other classic star wars roles" This is by far the easiest and most cut and dried form of the game. Basically Jedi/Sith acts like any other class, except you get a glowy sword. The game will feature, most likely, a variety of classes along the roles of tanking, healing, cc, and dps with Jedi/Sith filling either a tanking role or some form of dps/cc. If there is any customization with the Jedi class it is likely to only be in talent selection (if using three talent trees, the consular/guardian/sentinel trees would be the obvious choices). The upside: jedi is playable and customizable out of the box. The downside? It sucks running around with a billion other jedi and trying to feel special. Also, everyone and their brother will be a jedi, leaving the other classes largely useless.

Scenario 1a: Multiple Jedi classes for each empire with a "variety of other classic star wars roles" included. Same as above except you make each jedi/sith type an individual class. The upside: More customization and making Jedi feel different slightly. The downside: Even more reason for everyone to play jedi. I should note the obvious problem with both of these systems is that Jedi will have to be in balance with all the other classes, which de-powers the jedi and will probably make them less fun to play.

Scenario 2: Jedi as an unlockable class. No matter the form this leads to players being forced to play "lesser" roles to become jedi. Basically you either play until you are max level and are rewarded with a jedi, complete quests to unlock jedi powers and then go through training, or some other general mish mash of that sort of thing. You either become a jedi on that character or can now create jedi on that account. In either case jedi becomes playable for you, but only after you reach X requirement. The upside: Fewer Jedi at release, though numbers swell rapidly once people realize how you unlock it. The downside: people will complain about how hard it is to unlock jedi, the longer the game is out the more jedi there are, balancing a class that should be more powerful (because it is a reward) but still able to be defeated by other classes.

Scenario 3: Jedi is not in the game. Easy way around the problem is to remove Jedi and keep classes along the standard tank/healer/cc/dps line. Makes for a game that is WOW in a different set of models. The upside: it's ridiculously easy to create a game without the iconic figures of star wars in it, and you don't have to make all those fancy lightsaber fight moves. Also, it is easier to balance and dodges the whole jedi bullet. The downside: Would you buy it if there were no jedi? Didn't think so.

Scenario 4: Jedi is the only playable class. Another way around the problem. Everyone is a jedi. Jedi then just differ through powers or talents. The upside: Millions of fanbois will buy it, no need to balance the game, because there's only one class. The downside: Again, would you buy a MMORPG consisting entirely of Jedi? Also, everyone will be a jedi. Did I mention that Jedi will be common as fleas? Oh, and Bioware already said they would have a "variety of other classic star wars roles."

In my opinion, Bioware will most likely select option 1a, as it fits their KOTOR model of dealing with Jedi. Jedi will probably be slightly better in a PVP aspect than other classes but will have a harder time with PVE content. This provides the ZOMG awesome aspect of Jedi with the balance that games need. I will be watching with great interest.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A disturbance in the Force

Bioware has announced that the super secret space-based MMORPG they've been working on is indeed another Star Wars MMORPG, as was assumed when it was first announced. Not much information has been released as of yet, but this is something I will be watching with keen interest. Hopes and dreams of a few million SWG vets ride on this game, and Bioware could easily make billions by creating a game similar to SWG, set in the KOTOR time period, and fixing and adding in the themes that Sony failed to create.

That said, the game will most likely be a WOW or Guild Wars setup, with factions you are stuck in once you join and Jedi as a starting class (if KOTOR is any guideline, three types of Jedi as starting classes). This bodes ill for the franchise, and it will be difficult to pull off this game.

Bioware, the world is watching. Please listen to the players and do right by them. Don't make SW: The Old Republic the bastard child of Sony.

Good luck, and May the Force be with you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The General Reborn (Pt 3)

From the personal log of General Babkadol:

I have returned to this world again to save the kingdom with my military mind. I met with the King today to outline my plan. He does look just like Istrian. I don't know if he believes I am who I say I am, even though the old dwarf, Dorflin, assured him of the potency of his rituals. Dorflin will not accompany me on this journey, though six other have been selected to join me. I have not yet met them, though.

The King has advised that I do not reveal my true nature to anyone. I have even been given the official title of General Noramdeduk, or Relievemanor. I believe this is in hope that I will ease the tension off the mountain homes by the presence of another fortress. I have promised to export what we can, and hopefully there are sufficient resources where we will settle to help rebuild the army of the King.

My sketches for this fortress are much more complex than the last one. At Pickspells, we were thrust into the open fields with little in the way of defenses. Now we will be able to cut into the mountain and use mother earth for protection.

From the Personal Log of General Noramdeduk,

We have arrived at Obursavot Anil, or HeroicStand of Glory. I hope it won't come to a heroic stand, but the name is noble and worthy of the endeavors here. My companions think I am a military commander of little note, otherwise they would know of me. I will ensure they listen to me.

First I was introduced to my new quartermaster and bookkeeper, Sarek. She seems like a decent enough dwarf but balked at me when i told her that everyone under my command undergoes basic weapon training. She apparently thinks that the fighting should be left to the military. I informed her that she is now part of the military. She doesn't seem happy.

Next is Neo the poet-warrior. She is a swordsdwarf and a jeweler, which is a strange combination. She seems eager for battle, and doesn't have much respect for authority. That will change.

Our field kitchen is headed by Vesa, a virtual dwarf-of-all-trades when it comes to cooking, She cooks, brews, and butchers. An army is led by it's stomach, and she will be central to keeping us fed.

Our smith, Dracnor, is a very useful addition to our force. We will not have an anvil for some time, but having someone who knows his way around a forge is necessary for equipping our forces. Especially since there will be no obsidian where we are settling.

Next is Zak, the miner and mason. He is rumored to be able to do things with stone no other dwarf can. I will have to keep an eye on that. We will be digging deep into the mountains, and having a miner of some skill is always helpful.

Finally is a dwarf I barely took note of, as he was quiet during the entire trip, and immediatly took off to hunt what wild game exists in this wilderness. Malaki is the master of our hunting dogs and is at home in the wild. He is trained in the ways of the spear, though we have none, and is wise in the ways of the wilds. He will be useful in keeping us fed until our farms start producing.

Now we must strike the earth and prepare ourselves for the goblin and elf menace to break upon our fortifications like waves upon the sand. For better or worse, we make a stand here at Obursavot Anil. May we bath in the blood of our enemies and rejoice together in Warhalla.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The General Reborn (Pt 2)

"What us the meaning of this?" She said and looked down. She felt her chest and abdomen, searching for the holes where four goblin bolts had pierced and killed her so many years ago. She found her skin intact and body whole.

"You have been recalled to life by the Blood Pact of Armok, sealed by our forebearers in the early days of our race. It is by this pact that you are reborn and return from Warholla, General." The elderly dwarf said.

"Warholla? So what I saw was the halls of all fallen warriors, where we celebrate for all time. How long has it been?"

"Nearly a thousand years. Your enemy, the Tyrant King, has long since died, and his line is extinct. A new threat looms, great General. Goblins and Elves threaten our very mountain homes. Our outposts and kingdoms have been crushed beneath their alliance, and we are in a perilous position. As I speak we are battling back a siege at our capital, one of ferocious force. The humans have broken our alliance and now fend for themselves, leaving us alone and vulnerable."

"Why me? I was killed, I was unsuccesful in my goal, and this fortress clearly fell," She motioned around to the dust-covered stones, and the moss growing on the cavern walls. This fortress had not been occupied for a long time. "I am a failure."

"A failure? General, you are a legend. No dwarf in memory is recounted more in history than you. You took a group of six dwarves and forged a nation. Every child knows the story of the General who took her six lieutenants into the wilds and carved out a solid fortress of obsidian against the tyrant king. How she trained every dwarf with discipline and honor, into a warrior without compare. How she met her end fighting goblins, killing dozens and having bolt after bolt pierce her skin until finally she succumbed to the onslaught. How once she died, her proud warrior Ignaz the samurai led her soldiers home to confront the king. When the King saw the return of her soldiers, he ordered the fortress guard to slay them all. The King's dwarves with steel and iron clashed against the General's forces armed with wooden shields and obsidian swords. Ignaz was badly wounded, but fought his way to the King. He dueled the tyrant, and cut out his throat before succumbing to his wounds. The General's forces overcame the King and his guards, taking the mountain homes from the tyrant, at the cost of the lives of Ignaz and only three others. Istrian, the brave engineer and last alive of the six lieutenants, was crowned as king, and his line continues to this day."

She wiped a tear from her eye. "Ignaz was a good warrior, as was Istrian. Of the six, Snoopicus was killed in battle, as was Beastmaster, and Baradus died in the first few months here. What of Flokstein?"

"She died from an infection caused by a goblin bolt. She received a grievous many wounds from goblins, trying to save the artifact bone shield your wore on your arm. That item has long since been lost to history, but not the legend of it."

"What of this place? What happened to Pickspells?"

"It is a ruin and a monument to you and your six. It has been sealed ever since Istrian the King died, and was interred with you and your other lieutenants. I unsealed it two days ago to recall you to life."

"Then it is time I take the field again." She jumped from the coffin, and collapsed on the ground. The old dwarf helped her up.

"Your new body is not as strong as your old one, and it will take time to get used to, General."

"What does the King need of me, and what will I have to work with?"

"The King needs an outpost to train soldiers and act as a distraction for the goblins and elves. We need to relieve the pressure on the mountain homes. If we can take the battle to them, even better. The soldiers of the capital are mostly injured veterans or green recruits. Our forces have been devastated by the constant wars. The King has decreed that you be given supplies and six able dwarves. Every dwarf in the kingdom has volunteered, and six have been chosen. We are unable to spare an anvil, but will send one as soon as we can. We also have this for you." He handed her a small package wrapped in pig tail cloth.

She unwrapped it, and laughed. "Pickspells never received an anvil and we survived just fine. With this at my side, we will raise a mighty army for this war." she tucked the warhammer into a loop of her belt. "Let's begin planning, we have much to do."

For more information on this story, Click Here

The General Reborn (Pt 1)

"Another round, Snoopicus." she called to her old friend. "Today we toast Maggarg, the best swordsmaster I've trained. I remember when you were a raw recruit, my friend."

Maggarg raised his mug and downed the contents. Snoopicus filled it swiftly and the sixty dwarves gathered together cheered.

"And to Pickspells, the greatest self-sufficient military outpost in the known world." she said, and every dwarf gathered cheered heartily. The whole group milled around a luxurious dining room filled with all manner of food and drink. She was readily enjoying herself, when something tugged at her shoulder. It was a little dwarf boy.

"General Babkadol?" He said.

"Yes, that is who I am, young one," she said.

"Come with me, General Babkadol" the boy said, still tugging at her tunic.

"I'm in the middle of something, young one, I will come with you later." She said, and turned away from him.

"General Babkadol, you must come. You are recalled to life."

A cold chill ran down her spine. The room flashed red, and she saw horrible things around her. Snoopicus, her loyal second-in-command, waved to her...a bloody stump where his hand had been. Beastmaster turned and toasted her, draining her glass only to have it's contents spill from holes that perferated her body. Maggarg nodded to her, his head rolling from side to side on a broken neck.

"General Babkadol, you must come. You are recalled to life." The voice said. She turned to it, and the little boy was at the door. Reluctantly, she stood and followed him. He lead her out into a long corridor, one the General recognized well. It was the hallway of the residences of Pickspells. This was were her recruits and soldiers lived. She had dug these rooms herself in the early days.

The boy ran to the main stairwell and up the stairs. She paused only for a second to look at the statues depicting her soldiers' exploits, and the tombs of the lesser heroes of this place. Many recruits had died in their sleep from wounds during training. She had been careless with the green recruits, and the sheer number of those interred showed it clearly.

She walked up the stairs to the main level of Pickspells. The boy darted around to the grand catacombs of the fallen soldiers. There she knew Snoopicus, Beastmaster, and the others of the great seven were interred. The boy entered the fourth door, one that had not existed in her memory, and she reluctantly followed. It led to a grand tomb, complete with a masterful throne and cabinet, and dozens of momentos of a wonderful life. The walls depicted battle scenes with goblins, including the fall of Snoopicus, and a female figure she did not recognize. The boy gestured to the sarcophogus, and she let out a gasp. This is what was engraved:

General Babkadol
"Now rest with our ancesters, great commander
Let the goblins siege your soul no longer
Drink deep of the flasks of our ancestors
Until we meet in the celebration of a final battle."
-Interred into rest in the year of the King, 1608.

She felt another chill in her spine, and the world blacked out.


She woke to a cold room. Sitting up, she realized she was still in the crypt. The boy was gone, and in his place was an elderly looking dwarf. She looked down and found herself sitting in the coffin she had stared at moments ago.

"Welcome back to the living, General Babkadol." The dwarf said. "We have much to discuss."